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MLB plans manager challenge system for replay in 2014

Yankees manager Joe Girardi argues a call with

Yankees manager Joe Girardi argues a call with umpire Vic Carapazza and is thrown out in the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. (May 31, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - In what commissioner Bud Selig described as an "historic" moment, Major League Baseball revealed Thursday the 2014 season likely will have a dramatically expanded replay system that features a manager's challenge and a central review office to expedite the process.

Braves president John Schuerholz, who worked with former managers Joe Torre (now the executive vice president of MLB) and Tony La Russa to develop the proposal, unveiled the new program Thursday at the conclusion of the two-day owners meetings.

The plan will be put to a vote at the next meetings in November. With the expected cooperation of both the Players Association and the umpire's union, it should be in place by Opening Day.

"As you see in the last 20, 25 years, this sport has changed a lot," Selig said, "and I think for the better. I couldn't help but sense in the room the acceptance and the excitement. People understood they were sitting on something historic."

Also radical.

Schuerholz outlined a program in which 89 percent of the game's plays will be considered "reviewable," meaning they can be challenged by a manager. The other 11 percent, as well as balls and strikes, are not eligible to be challenged. Schuerholz didn't provide the entire list, but when asked for an example of a non-reviewable play, he mentioned a hit by pitch, because of the potential for complications on the basepaths.

"Most of those plays, when you see them, if they are turned over, the rest of the play would be mind-boggling," Schuerholz said. "So that's the way we've chosen to start."

Under this framework, a manager is allowed three challenges: one through the first six innings (it doesn't carry over) and two more that can be used from the seventh inning until the end of the game. If the challenge is upheld, the manager keeps it and can reuse it until he loses a challenge. If the play is not overturned, the manager loses that challenge.

Unlike the NFL, the MLB system will not have a flag to throw. The manager must give the closest umpire a verbal notification. Once that is done, the plate umpire or crew chief will use a nearby communications center -- somewhere near the backstop or camera bays -- for a direct, secure line to the MLB Advanced Media offices, which are located in lower Manhattan.

At the central office, a crew of umpires and technicians will monitor each game to provide an instant review and ruling on the play. The ultimate decision will be made by the umpire watching the replay in that Manhattan office. By doing so, Schuerholz said the entire process will take only an average of 1 minute, 15 seconds as opposed to the current 3:04 average for home-run reviews.

"We believe there's a happy balance between getting more calls right for the first time and still maintaining and protecting those elements of our game," Schuerholz said. "The uniqueness of baseball, how it flows, and the charm of it. We want to protect that."

Schuerholz said MLB's data showed one missed call per every five games, which is why his committee believes three challenges would be sufficient to cover any situations that arise. However, managers are not allowed to argue or ask for help on reviewable plays at the risk of "stalling" the game. They can discuss non-reviewable plays, and that leaves the door open for ejections as well.

Reviews of home runs will be grandfathered in as MLB considers Thursday's plan as adding on to the current replay system. It also will be modified for improvements going forward.

"The managers have never had this power before," Schuerholz said. "This is historic -- and we think it's workable."

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